With the new moon keeping the lunar light on the down-low, the first meteor shower of 2014 may just be the biggest and brightest that the upcoming year has to offer.
The Quadrantid meteors peak annually just after the turn of the year. This year, scan the night skies on January 3 for what could be the year’s most spectacular shooting stars. After nightfall on Thursday January 2 could also be a good bet, as could the pre-dawn hours of January 4. The absence of moonlight makes all the difference.
In 2013 the last four showers were obscured by bright moonlight, though there were a few moonless hours here and there before and after its rise and fall.
However, this time there is no such interference, the experts say. All that viewers will have to contend with is the biting cold.
“Still, 2014 presents some good reasons to brave the cold in the first week of January, to just possibly catch the best meteor shower of the year,” said the astronomers at Universetoday.com. “The Quadrantids tie the December Geminids for the highest predicted Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) for 2014 at 120.”
Earth passes through the debris stream that comprises this shower between January 1 and 10, but the actual peak is much shorter. The Quadrantids are associated with asteroid 2003 EH1, according to Timeanddate.com.
“The Quadrantid shower has a narrow peak that lasts for only a few hours,” said EarthSky.org. “If you miss the peak—which is easy to do—this otherwise tepid shower is sure to disappoint.”
The hours before dawn on January 3 and 4 are the best viewing times, EarthSky.org said. It is best viewed from northerly latitudes.
“You need a dark, open sky, and you need to look in a general north-northeast direction for an hour or so before dawn,” EarthSky.org said.